Speech Sound Disorder in Children and Adolescents


ICD-10 Code: F80.9

Speech sound disorder is part of a cluster of diagnoses called communication disorders. Communication disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions that include:

  • Language Disorder
  • Speech Sound Disorder
  • Childhood-onset Fluency Disorder (Stuttering)
  • Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder

A communication disorder is an impairment in the processes of speech, language or communication. Speech is the expressive production of sounds and includes an individual’s articulation, fluency, voice and resonance quality. Language includes the form, function, and use of a convention system of symbols (i.e., spoken words, written words, sign language, pictures) in a rule-governed manner for communication. Communication includes any verbal or nonverbal behavior that influences the behavior, ideas, or attitudes of another individual. A child with a communication problem may exhibit many different symptoms. These may include difficulty following directions, attending to a conversation, pronouncing words, perceiving what was said, expressing oneself, or being understood because of a stutter or a hoarse voice. An assessment of speech, language and communication abilities must take into account the individual’s cultural and language context, particularly for individuals growing up in bilingual environments.  

What is Speech Sound Disorder?

Prevalence data on speech sound disorder is limited and problematic due to inconsistent definitions and a lack of publications focusing on children in the United States. Some studies estimate that 10% of children have a speech sound disorder. The limited epidemiologic data that are available suggest that prevalence is slightly higher in boys than girls, and has a low positive correlation with socioeconomic status.

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Understanding Speech Sound Disorder

Learning to produce speech sounds clearly and accurately follows a developmental pattern. Children with speech sound disorder utilize phonological simplifications and misarticulate words far longer than their typically developing peers. The cause of speech sound disorders in most children is unknown.

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How is speech sound disorder treated?

Speech Sound disorder is treatable. Interventions recommendations for speech sound disorder are outlined in the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association and University of Carolina Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

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